Hungary To Pay In Rubles For Russian Gas
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Hungary’s controversial prime minister said Wednesday that Hungary agreed to pay roubles for Russian natural gas and that he’d invited Russia’s leader for ceasefire talks in Budapest.
Viktor Orbán said he spoke to reporters after “lengthy talks” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who congratulated him on his victory in Hungary’s parliamentary elections on Sunday.
“We don’t have any difficulty paying in rubles. If the Russians ask us to, we pay in rubles” for natural gas, Orbán explained.
He broke ranks with the European Union, which sought a united front in opposing Moscow’s demand for payment in the currency amid Western outrage over its invasion of Ukraine.
Even Poland, a long-term ally of Hungary in its clashes with the EU over what critics say is a systemic erosion of democratic rights, has criticized Budapest for its cautious position on the Ukraine war. The Czech Republic has done the same.
Orban said he aimed to strengthen the alliance with Poland. The two countries have supported each other for years in their battles with Brussels over the rule of law and access to EU funds.
Orbán, seen as Putin’s closest EU ally, has made clear he opposes extending sanctions to Russian energy as Hungary is heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas deliveries.
Hungary recently signed a new long-term gas supply deal last year under which Russian energy giant Gazprom is due to ship 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas annually. Orbán also praised the expansion of Hungary’s only nuclear plant in Paks, which his government awarded to Russian state firm Rosatom in a multi-billion dollar deal without a public tender.
Hungary is one of only a few EU member states that rejected energy sanctions against Moscow in response to the invasion, which Russia terms a “special military operation.”
The Hungarian prime minister, who met Putin in Moscow shortly before the war in Ukraine began, said Budapest was also ready to host ceasefire talks.
He said Putin’s response was “positive” to attend negotiations that would also involve the Ukrainian and French presidents as well as the German chancellor. “I suggested to President Putin that he should announce a ceasefire immediately,” Orban told a news conference, adding that Putin called him.
Orbán said the Russian leader cautioned, however, that his attendance at talks in Budapest would carry unspecified conditions.
His comments were expected to raise eyebrows in Brussels which is preparing to impose heavy fines on Hungary for violating the EU’s rule of law and democratic standards.
Orbán swept to power for a fourth consecutive term in elections on Sunday, partly on a pledge to preserve the security of relatively cheap natural gas supplies for Hungarian households.
The rightwing Orbán urged reporters to understand his position, saying there are 200,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Ukraine who may end up in a war.
Hungary is also still recovering from its experiences in 1956 when Russian troops crushed its anti-Soviet Revolution.
As a young man, Orbán was the first politician to publicly ask Russian forces to leave Hungarian soil during a historic speech in 1989. Critics say, however, he later abandoned his liberal leanings in favor of more authoritarian, pro-Russian, and nationalistic views.
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